Blood ProcessingAfter you give your blood, while you’re snacking on cookies and showing off your arm wrap, your blood begins its journey to save lives! Every donation of blood can help save more than one life because it can be processed into its components: red cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. Through one donation, you can help save as many as three lives.
When the phlebotomist collects your unit of blood, samples are also collected in test tubes. Your blood is sent to the lab for processing while your test tubes are sent to the testing facility. All donated blood will undergo this testing, regardless of how many times the donor has given blood.
While testing is being completed, the donated blood unit is separated into components using a method called centrifugation (spinning). Because the red cells are the densest, they settle at the bottom of the bag. Then the less-dense cells (platelets) and plasma (being the lightest component) remain at the top of the bag.
The platelets and plasma components are then placed into separate bags, with the red cells remaining in the original bag. The leukocytes (white blood cells) are separated from the red blood cells by filtering, a procedure called leukoreduction. This process reduces the risk of post-transfusion infection for the patient receiving the red cell transfusion.
After the blood is tested, typed and processed, it is labeled by blood group and the day of donation. It is then stored for distribution to hospitals. Whole blood can be transfused for 21 days after the donation. Red cells can remain refrigerated for 42 days. Platelets are stored separately and must be used within five days of the donation. Plasma is often frozen for later use.
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